An interview with Danny Park, Director of Customer Success North America, Cyncly
by Anya Breen
Strong communication between Customer Success (CS) and Product organizations can feel like an ambitious goal. This is especially true for the many companies who struggle with a disconnect between these two functions when envisioning roadmaps and customer experience.
I spoke to Danny Park, Customer Success Director at Cyncly and an experienced contributor on this topic to hear his views:
Why is it important for CS and Product organizations to work closely together?
“The primary reason why collaboration between CS and Product is critical is because CS needs to be a bridge between the customers and the Product team. CS needs to engage with customers and extract their feedback to share with the Product team, as well as other business units, to assist in informing their Product roadmap. CS needs to ensure that the customer also has line of sight into the Product roadmap.
As the Product team builds and plans their roadmap, CS should be facilitating engagements where Product can validate and vet their assumptions and decisions with customers. This two-way feedback channel ensures that there are no surprises on either side. When executed well, customers feel like they are in a partnership and that their needs & challenges are being heard and addressed. They are happy with a solution that delivers value and Product wins by delivering a valuable product to market.”
Where do you see the biggest challenges for the CS / Product relationship within organizations?
“The biggest challenge is fear. Product teams fear that their roadmaps will be hijacked by bespoke requests that don’t serve the majority of the customer base. The CS team's desire is to help the Product team make data-driven decisions and eliminate assumptions. Weaker CSMs will cave and allow requests to flood in, whereas stronger CSMs will understand the delicate need to balance the needs of the organization and their customers. CSMs should be reinforcing the expectation that customer feedback is indeed feedback and that the Product organization will make the call on how to prioritize every need and how to address the need.
The CS team's biggest fear is being left in the dark on Product Roadmaps and that customer feedback isn’t incorporated into the decision-making process. The Product roadmap is the biggest, most important, organizational asset that CS needs to align our customers to. CS can't consult and create Success Plans for customers if they don't know where the roadmap is heading. CS wants to work FOR Product teams by getting them full access to our customer base to get them all the information they need to do what they do.”
What can leaders both internal to these functions and at executive level be doing to facilitate strong cross-collaboration?
“Leaders can set clear rules of engagement and goals about what the two teams should be working towards and how. Encourage communication and collaboration, and ensure that every department has a detailed departmental roadmap that is visible and shared with all other teams. None of this works if the execs do not do as they say. They need to set the strategic organizational vision and be transparent in sharing that vision, so that everyone else can align and roll up their goals to that vision.”
What do you see on the horizon for this topic?
“The need for Product and CS to work together is more critical now than ever. AI will accelerate the building and operational efficiency of products and software. This means it's critical to an organization's survival to have a strong Product roadmap and get it right fast. The runway for mistakes is shrinking quickly. Strong Product roadmaps are found where there is a strong relationship between CS, Product, and customers.
I would love to see webinars and more articles from CS leaders who apply CS principles internally to their organization, on top of applying it externally to customers. CS sees so many internal organizational challenges because we work cross-functionally with nearly every department. This is why more CS ops roles are springing up. Strong CS leaders look to improve our own organizations because we know that this will ultimately serve the customer best in the long run.”
To sum up, there is a lot of discussion across public forums as to how CS and Sales or CS and Marketing organisations should build stronger bridges, as CS shifts to more revenue orientated expectations. However, the relationship between CS and product organisations and the stronger, more customer orientated product that this can result in, can have a far greater impact on commercial numbers and profitability. Removing the friction through open dialogue and mutually beneficial collaboration should be a priority for leaders in the space. As we close out 2023, the adaptability that this focus brings is essential, and this is a conversation that should have a higher profile moving into the next year!
At Atara Partners we are in the business of helping start-ups grow through our unique approach to executive search. If you’d like to learn more about Atara Partners and our work in executive search contact us here. Or check out our interview series on Customer Success.